In the year 492, St. Michael appeared on Mount Gargano and said to the local bishop, ”I am the Archangel Michael and I am always in the presence of God. The cave is sacred to me. In this opening in the rock, the sins of men can be forgiven. What will be asked here in prayer will be granted. Go therefore to the mountain and dedicate the cave to Christian worship.”
The bishop delayed in following St. Michael’s command. When he finally arrived to dedicate the grotto as a place of worship, St. Michael appeared again and said, “It is no longer your task to consecrate the Basilica I built. I who founded it, I myself consecrated it.”
Since that time, the grotto has affectionately been called the “Celestial Basilica” as it is the only Christian church not consecrated by human hands. In 1656, during a time of terrible pestilence in Italy, in answer to the prayers of the local bishop, St. Michael appeared and instructed him to bless the stones of the grotto, adding, “Anyone who devotedly keeps these stones with him will be immune to the plague.”
The Archangel’s promise was fulfilled and it was at this time that the Sanctuary of St. Michael at Mount Gargano distributed stones more widely than before. These are popular relics/sacramentals that are used to invoke the powerful intercession of St. Michael to protect God’s people from the spiritual snares of the Devil, as well as from physical harm. St. Padre Pio loved this sanctuary and often directed his penitents to go there and seek St. Michael’s intercession in their battle against sin.
Because the distribution of these stones is strictly regulated, generally only tiny particles are made available to the faithful. Larger stones (up to 2 or 3 inches in diameter) are extremely rare, but sometimes made available to bishops and abbots. St. Michael’s Abbey has three such stones, one procured by an Italian bishop on December 3, 1853. The other two were recently gifted to the abbey by Dr. Arturo Jimenez-Vera, who was a spiritual son of Padre Pio. While at San Giovanni Rotondo, Arturo arranged for a pilgrim to have an informal audience with Padre Pio, which led to a conversion that culminated with a visit to Mt. Gargano. Arturo developed a long-term relationship with the Basilica-Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel and The Brotherhood of St. Michael the Archangel, from whom he received a number of stones.
It is these white stones from the sacred grotto of Mt. Gargano which will be used to impart the blessing in the church on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel.